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286                  HISTORY OF PERSIA                 CHAP.

Persia, into decay, yet remains a superb sample of the
style of the Safavi kings."

The Ala Kapi.—On the east side of the Maydan is
situated the Ala Kapi, or " Lofty Gate," by which the
royal palace was entered. It may more correctly be
described as a building in the form of a great arch on
which was constructed a talar, or open throne-room, sup-
ported by the wooden columns which form a distinctive
feature of Safavi architecture. Enthroned in state, the
Shah gave audience at the No Ruz, or New Year, in this
hall, which is declared by Chardin to be "le plus beau
Sallon de cette sorte que j'aye vA au monde." His
Majesty also witnessed polo matches, horse races and
wild beast combats from this same building, in which he
was visible to thousands of his subjects who filled the
great square.

The Chehel Sutun.—The Ala Kapi leads into the vast
gardens, in which were many palaces. The most important
building is the Chehel Sutun, or " Forty Columns." *
This splendid throne-room, with its roof constructed of
the boles of great plane trees and supported by twenty
columns made of the same tree, was formerly wainscoted
with white marble, surmounted by mirror-work set in
facets. Behind this verandah is the actual throne-room,
from- which opened a dais supporting the throne. Small
rooms' on either side were destined for the ministers
and for service, and behind, extending the entire length
of the building, is a long gallery with three immense oil-
paintings on each side, three of which are reproduced in
this work. To quote again from Lord Curzon, " they
transport us straight to the court of the lordly Abbas and
his predecessors or successors on the throne. We see
the king engaged in combat, or at some royal.festivity,
enjoying the pleasures of the bowl. The big moustaches
and smooth chins, and abundant turbans, represent a
iashion of coiffure that has long expired. The arms and
accoutrements of the warriors, the instruments of the
musicians, the very gestures of the dancing-girls, open to

1 The number "Forty" ia not intended to be taken literally, any more d
BC of Pertepoliv which also has for one of its names the "Forty Columns."

than in the